By Steven Hicks and Tanya Mutton
John Cleese, legendary comedian and writer, will visit The King Center in Melbourne November 5. After a showing of his iconic film, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” he will take the stage to discuss the film along with other fanciful topics. SpaceCoast Living was lucky enough to have a few minutes of his time recently to talk about his upcoming show and, as you’ll read, many other topics. Tanya Mutton, our Art Director sat in to “translate,” as she called it, because she’s from Britain too.
Steve: Good morning!
Tanya: How are you, sir?
John Cleese: Good morning. Hello, Steven and Tanya. I’m very old, or it may be that I’m very tired. I’m not sure. They feel the same.
Steve: First — and I have to add this — Tanya is from Britain as well. That’s why she’s here. She’s offered to translate for me.
John Cleese: Excellent. If I talk about vests, you’ll know what I’m talking about. And pants.
Tanya: Yes, I know what vests are. And I keep trying to teach them the many ways to use the word pants, like, that story is pants. But they’re like, “Pants, aren’t those trousers?” I’m like, “Well, yeah, but they’re also… something can be pants.”
John Cleese: Yes, it’s funny that there are so many words in our languages that differ when it comes to clothes. We keep our trousers up sometimes with braces! Not braces
Tanya: No, we call them braces. They call them suspenders.
Steve: I like braces better though.
John Cleese: I was just seeing if you were listening.
Steve: When you come to the States for these tours, do you have to adjust your humor? Do you find that the audiences differ from Britain to here?
John Cleese: Very little. If people don’t like me, or if they just find what I’m talking about incomprehensible, then they don’t buy tickets. The lovely thing about these audiences are they like what I do, or else they wouldn’t be in the theater. They’re much more aware of the vocabulary that I would use than, say, if I were entertaining farm workers in Alabama. Probably.
Steve: Which I notice, wasn’t on your tour schedule.
John Cleese: Yes. It was canceled due to lack of interest.
Steve: Do you also find that the fans in attendance at your shows are segmented? People that love Monty Python versus Fawlty Towers, or A Fish Called Wanda, or Clockwise?
John Cleese: A very interesting question. I’ve never really noticed it. In America, I’m better known for Monty Python than Fawlty Towers. Whereas, in England, I’m better known for Fawlty Towers. There are differences, but they don’t seem to be apparent in the audience. But there are people who know me, for example, from reading my autobiography. They have a completely different idea of me from people who know me from Fawlty Towers. There’s a lot people that think, if I’m doing Fawlty Towers, I must be like my character Basil, you know. Sometimes I have to explain to them that I have been caught acting on occasion.
Steve: I recently read about your new show on the BBC. You must be really excited about that.
John Cleese: I’ve been working on it over the last few weeks. I think people who think that I’m like Basil Fawlty will be astonished. Absolutely, at the other end of the spectrum. It’s written by a lovely fellow, Charles McKeown. I got to know him when we were shooting “Life of Brian” in Tunisia, an awfully long time ago, maybe 40 years ago. He played lots and lots of parts, including the blind man who claimed there had been a miracle and he could now see. He threw his stick away and fell into a huge pit.
Tanya: A lot of people think that you’ve just done Monty Python and Fawlty Towers. I was quite surprised to read that you have worked nonstop. You’ve done so much work — radio, television, movies. I was curious, is there anything on your wish list that you haven’t done yet? That you would really like to get your teeth into?
John Cleese: Yes, when my finances are restored, because obviously having to pay $20 billion to my ex-wife has put a big hole in my finances. You don’t make the money in English television that you do in American television. People, I think, probably thought that $20 billion was more like a flea bite to me, when it was more like a crocodile bite. Once I’ve got my finances restored, I would love to make a documentary about what religion would be if the organized churches hadn’t gotten their hands on it.
I would love to do some programs about life after death because I believe something does go on after we die. I know that’s regarded as insane, but I believe we understand far less about the world than some people think we do. I know one very distinguished physicist who thinks that it’s possible that something does go on after death. I would love to put that out there because I think it is encouraging to think that this is only part of a big deal and not the only thing.
Steve: One last thing: you have four dates in Florida in November, in winter. Is that a plan and would you come back next winter and do “Life of Brian” for us?
John Cleese: Sure as hell, I’m not going to be up in New England! I’d love to do “Life of Brian.” It’s a better film than “Holy Grail.” Most Americans don’t agree with me on that — the English do.
Tanya: Thank you so much for taking the time with us. It’s been an honor speaking with you.
John Cleese: Very good. A pleasure. I thoroughly enjoyed it.